2016 Photo Contest, Long-Term Projects, 1st prize

Sexual Assault in America's Military


Mary F. Calvert

20 July, 2015

Paula Anderson (left) and Patricia Butts (right) hold hands during a serenity prayer, at the conclusion of an event held for homeless veterans. When Paula told her army commander that she had been drugged and raped by a fellow soldier, she was shipped off to Korea. Her army career lasted six years, but her MST has followed her for 20 years. She became homeless in February 2015, after her release following 17 months in jail. Patricia was a young soldier stationed in Fort Devens, Massachusetts, in 1979, when she witnessed a steady campaign of rape within her unit. After three years, she could no longer cope with military life and was honorably discharged. Diagnosed with PTSD, she has been homeless off and on since 1981.

The incidence of sexual assault on women by their colleagues in the US Armed Forces is high. Many women see reporting attacks to their commands as difficult or futile. Very few sexual assaults are reported and only a fraction of those get to court. The trauma of a sexual assault, and the ensuing emotional distress, may lead to long-term personal issues. The effects of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) include drug and alcohol dependence, homelessness, and an increased risk of suicide. Challenges for women veterans are not always met by existing vet programs. Women veterans form the fastest growing segment of the homeless population of the US, and are four times more likely to be homeless as other women.

The photographer, who comes from a military family, made it her mission to document the lives of MST survivors, and to keep the issue talked about. She learned that they formed a network of support for each other, but that homeless survivors were a hidden population, who rarely spoke to others about their experiences.

About the photographer

Mary F. Calvert

Calvert believes that journalists have a duty to shine a light into the deepest recesses of the human experience and provide a mirror for society to examine itself. Mary has b...

Technical information

Shutter Speed
Focal length
24.0 mm
Nikon D3S

This image is collected in